City Not Immune from Liability in Case Involving Stop Sign Obscured by Overgrown Foliage

Late last year, an appellate court in Ohio issued a written opinion affirming an intermediate appellate court’s decision that a city that allowed a stop sign to become overgrown with foliage was not entitled to governmental immunity. In the case, Bibler v. Stevenson, the court concluded that the city was not entitled to immunity because the stop sign was placed due to a state law requiring stop signs to be placed at intersections of “through highways.”

The Facts of the Case

Bibler was injured in a car accident when another motorist, Stevenson, allegedly ran a stop sign. Stevenson claimed that he did not see the stop sign, and the responding police officer agreed that the sign was overgrown with foliage and not visible to approaching motorists.

Bibler later filed a personal injury lawsuit against both Stevenson and the City of Findlay, the local government of the place where the accident had occurred. Bibler settled with Stevenson, and the case proceeded against the city only. In a pre-trial motion, the city argued that it was entitled to government immunity because under state law, governments are only liable for negligence involving “public roads,” which do not include traffic-control devices. Bibler agreed with that general statement but argued there was an exception when the traffic-control device was by the state’s “manual of uniform traffic control devices.”

The court agreed with Bibler, first noting that the city was immune unless it failed to maintain a “public road.” The court explained that the definition of a public road normally does not include traffic control signals, but it may if the placement of the signal was required by the manual of uniform traffic control devices. Since the intersection where the accident occurred was a “through highway,” the city was required to place the stop sign under the state’s revised code.

The defendant maintained that while the revised code required the placement of the sign, the manual of uniform traffic control devices did not mention the requirement for stop signs at through intersections. However, the court was not troubled by that fact, explaining that the intent of the legislature in updating the revised code made clear that it desired stop signs to be placed at through intersections. The fact that the manual of uniform traffic control devices had not been updated at the time of the accident did not change the court’s analysis.

Have You Been Injured in a Washington, D.C. Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Washington, D.C. car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. In some cases, there may be multiple parties that can be held liable, including government entities. However, cases against government entities present a unique set of challenges, and these cases should be handled by experienced personal injury attorneys. The dedicated advocates at Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have decades of experience representing injured clients in cases against negligent government entities, and we know what it takes to be successful in this unique legal landscape. Call 410-654-3600 today to set up a free consultation.

More Blog Posts:

The Summary Judgment Standard in Washington, D.C. Personal Injury Cases, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, December 16, 2016

Premises Liability Case Arising Out of New Year’s Eve Apartment Complex Shooting Dismissed, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, January 3, 2017

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